Have you ever wondered about having a career in social work? Social work involves helping communities, individuals, families, and groups of people deal with bad situations. You might think that sounds precisely like counseling, and while the two overlap, they aren’t the same thing. What kinds of careers can you look for involving social work?
What Careers Are There in Social Work?
There are 12 types of social work, including some many of us have never heard of. The path you choose depends on the people you want to work with and the type of work you want to do.
Clinical Social Work
Clinical social work involves assessing and diagnosing mental illness, emotional problems, and other behavioral issues and developing treatment and prevention plans for their clients. Clinical social workers provide their clients with much-needed mental help, up to and including people suffering from addiction.
These workers do everything from individual therapy to group therapy, family therapy, and crisis interventions. As a clinical social worker, you could work in a hospital, primary care facility, mental health facility, or another medical facility.
Medical Social Work
Also called “health-care social work,” a medical social worker helps patients and their families learn to cope with injury and illness. That can include counseling and giving them information on resources designed to help them deal with everything from the emotional strain to their condition’s financial strain.
You would work in a hospital, in hospice, doctors’ offices, rehab facilities, nursing homes, or other facilities, helping coordinate patient care and acting as a patient advocate.
Hospice and Palliative Care Social Work
People who go into hospice and palliative care work are essential in helping patients and families handle a severe or terminal illness. They help patients and their families understand what’s happening, what type of care they’re receiving, and often advocate for them as well.
Hospice and palliative care closely overlap but are two different things. One of the things you would do as a hospice and palliative care social worker is to help families understand both and counsel them in learning how to cope and grieve.
Psychiatric Social Work
Psychiatric social work is a specialized form of medical and clinical social work. Psychiatric social workers help patients with severe, complex, difficult-to-manage mental illness who may be a danger to themselves or others and suffer severe emotional distress.
This is a challenging field of social work. As a psychiatric social worker, you’ll do risk assessment, group therapy, crisis intervention and support, and more. You’ll work in an inpatient or outpatient psychiatric care facility, and you’ll be providing help and support to mentally ill people who can’t function in society.
Gerontological Social Work
Social workers in gerontology work with the elderly and are experts in their biological and psychosocial needs. They help connect the elderly with many resources and work with them and their families to determine their care needs, how to do it, and pay for it.
You would work closely on determining a client’s ability to function, but that’s not all. Gerontological social workers also work with older adults who got thrust into a role they aren’t ready for, like caring for grandchildren long-term. You’d work in long-term care facilities, rehab centers, adult protection services, or even private practice.
Pediatric Social Work
These social workers specialize in helping children facing severe medical conditions. They also provide emotional support to children and their families, coordinate care, and connect them to necessary resources like financial help.
Pediatric social workers also provide crisis intervention, counseling for coping and grieving, advocacy for the child and family regarding treatment and other services, and more at inpatient and outpatient centers.
Child Welfare Social Work
Child welfare social workers ensure children in troubled households get the care that they need. That can often include helping them out of an abusive or neglectful situation, helping their families find financial and other resources, and counseling and advocating for them as a caretaker while their primary caretakes are incapacitated.
It’s a rewarding field but also gut wrenching at times, especially when you witness dangerous conditions and have to remove a child from their home. As a child welfare social worker, you’ll work hard to ensure children grow up to be as healthy as possible, with access to resources they may need.
Military Social Work
If you’ve ever wanted to help military members transition back into civilian or professional roles after deployment, you could consider becoming a military social worker. Military social workers are a significant source of help and support for active-duty service members, veterans, and their families.
You would advocate for your clients within the VA system and help them with psychological and emotional support and treatment, which is especially important following deployment to combat zones. With specialized training, you’d be helping your clients reclaim their lives.
Private Practice Social Work
Social workers sometimes open their own practices. Whether or not you choose to go into private practice is up to you, but there are some things you should know about. In addition to a practice, you’re running a business, and you’re responsible for everything from finding space to haggling with insurance companies yourself.
However, having your own practice can mean you get more face time with your clients, which gives you the ability to get to know them better and truly understand them as people in addition to the problems with which you’re trying to help. For this, you need to be a licensed clinical social worker.
Many social workers find this kind of work very rewarding, though, despite its many challenges. Just ensure you’re ready for it.
Forensic Social Work
Forensic social work is part of the criminal justice field. They put social work theories together with problems facing the legal system. They’re involved in civil and criminal cases involving parental rights, justice services, mandated treatment, determining whether a witness is fit to testify, and more.
In some ways, your work would be similar to that of clinical social workers. You’d diagnose, treat, and provide recommendations for criminal populations. You’d also offer group therapy, individual therapy, and psychosocial counseling. You’ll need to understand the legal field and the environment in which you’d be working.
Macro Social Work
This social work involves looking at social problems in society at large, investigates them, and provides recommendations on addressing them effectively. These social workers often work in politics, although they also work at research organizations and universities, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, and more.
If you become a macro social worker, you could be a policy advocate, human services specialist, community specialist, and research associate. Macro social workers provide an understanding of social problems like poverty, pollution, and advocates for the poor, among other things.
There is a fantastic variety of careers within the broad field of social work. Regardless of what you decide to do, you get to help people with broad and diverse problems, from determining whether a home is fit for a child to working on connecting the elderly to resources.
You’re also helping entire communities, even if you don’t go into macro social work. Society needs social workers at all levels to help those who are having trouble helping themselves.